Last night I voted for the government’s Brexit plan and here is my statement on why.
This was the hardest decision I have had to take in 14 years as your MP, but I always tell the truth as I see it.
It was obvious the Brexit plan was going to be defeated by a huge margin, but I think I have to do what I think is right – however difficult that is – and then be held to account.
Why did I vote the way I did?
First, 71% of local people voted for Brexit. I respect the people I represent and I keep the promises I make.
I’ve worked hard to listen to local people at dozens of meetings in Dudley, by sending out thousands of surveys and talking to people face-to-face.
There is no doubt a large majority of local people wanted to leave the EU, but most also wanted to maintain the best possible trading arrangements to protect jobs.
Our manifesto in 2017 promised unequivocally and categorically to uphold the result of the referendum and to leave the EU. This promise was clear and I repeated that to people in Dudley. I don’t think that can be discounted lightly.
Second, voting down the deal could result in us leaving with no plans at all, which I think would be a real problem for businesses and jobs in the Black Country. That is what happens on March 29th if we don’t have a plan in place.
I’ve talked to businesses large and small. Companies like Jaguar Land Rover who provide thousands of jobs in the West Midlands and lots of smaller employers too all told me that leaving with no deal would put investment and jobs at risk.
Third, I am also very worried about having another referendum.
I have listened to lots of local people but there is little evidence people have changed their minds. Even if the result was narrowly to remain, how would that settle it?
We all know how angry people in areas like ours are about the loss of industry, and the impact of austerity and the financial crisis - many have had no pay rise for a decade or seen real wages fall.
I think many people saw the referendum as a chance to have their voice heard and they would be furious if it was now overturned. I am worried that having another referendum would undermine confidence in our democratic institutions and take things in a very ugly direction.
There is also no agreement on what another referendum would ask or even how many questions there would be. The government’s deal is far from perfect, but I think it could be the best deal the country can get. After almost three years this is the only deal available.
That is why, in the end, I decided to vote for it.